Thousands huddled together on the streets of London yesterday night to secure their places behind the metal barriers, and in the chronicles of history.
Visitors to Westminster came from far and wide, from Bermuda to Bangladesh.
Kristina Grund Robertson, 39, a florist, travelled from Sweden on Saturday to see the Queen lying in state and join the crowd in Parliament Square.
Visitors camped from six o’clock the morning before, swaddled in blankets, Union Jacks floating over the railing before them. Over the shoulders of winter coats peeped the tips of two-person tents, large umbrellas and folding chairs: others on bean bags or bubble wrap, chatting, exchanging stories.
The crowd cheered passing binmen and servicemen. Snack packets crackled and the scent of bacon crisps wafted through the air.
“Biscuits? Anyone want biscuits?” called one woman. The crowd responded with glee.
A woman camping nearby, returned from the coffee shop with a crate of hot drinks to share with the crowd.
One young mourner caught everyone’s eye — River, just three months old. Her mother Sarah Meeks, 47, a sign language interpreter and ex-Spurs footballer from Reading, Berkshire, was delighted she could tell River she was aa part of history.
She said: “It’s sort of like a community, we’re all here getting through this together.”
As the night grew colder, strangers discovered common ground. 37-year-old barrister Amin Afridi Chowdhury and mum of four Hazeera Miah, 42, were amazed to find out they both came from the Sylhet district of Bangladesh.
Chowdhury queued for 20 hours to see the Queen lying in state and was thrilled to be greeted by King Charles and Prince William.
He said: “I would like to express my gratitude to King Charles III, it was a very nice moment for me.”
MiahHazeera made the trip to Westminster from Hertfordshire on Sunday and said: “I came for two hours but ended up staying the whole night.”
It was the first night she had spent away from her youngest son, and she explained she had come to repay the Queen’s kindness to Bangladesh, a country the Sovereign visited in 1983.
. Attending the lying in state allowed each and every person in the queue to mourn the Queen but also to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Cascade Edwards, 29, a systems analyst from Vauxhall, southeast London, remembered the Queen and the powerful effects of her reign. She said: “It felt like the Queen was immortal. She touched people’s lives in a very emotional way.”
As night turned to day, police ordered tents to be dismantled and the atmosphere turned from chatter to expectation.
Even on her final journey, the Queen remained a unifying force, forging connections between strangers brought together in mourning.
Featured image: Reuters